Healthy Pumpkin Cake

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This Healthy Pumpkin Cake delivers an explosion of flavor, offers the perfect moist texture, and it couldn’t be easier to make — we throw everything into a blender and give it a whirl! Pour the batter into a pan, bake, and be prepared to enjoy this tasty seasonal treat. This cake (without the frosting) is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined-sugar-free.

Love nutritious pumpkin treats? Try these Healthy Pumpkin MuffinsHealthy Pumpkin Cookies, or Healthy Pumpkin Bread next!

Image of the Healthy Pumpkin Cake pieces stacked on top of each other

Healthy Pumpkin Cake– No Sugar Needed!

These Pumpkin Bars are a must-make every fall; in fact, they even claimed a spot on our Thanksgiving dessert table last year. Everyone went crazy for them! 

So, this year, I thought, why not channel all those flavors we love from the bars into a more nutritious treat — one we could all even eat for breakfast! And this Healthy Pumpkin Cake is just that — all the great flavors and wonderful textures but with much more nutritious ingredients.

Is Pumpkin Cake Healthy?

We couldn’t picture a more nutritious cake that still tastes just as indulgent as a more butter- and sugar-laden dessert! Check out a quick breakdown of this recipe’s many nutritional benefits:

  • No flour. We use whole old-fashioned oats instead.
  • Canned pumpkin. This nutrient-rich vegetable is loaded with fiber, nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. In fact, did you know pumpkin has the highest amounts of vitamin A when compared to other veggies? Vitamin A helps to keep skin and eyesight healthy and reduces the risk for chronic disease. (Source.)
  • No refined sugar. Really, there is none! We’re sweetening this cake with pure maple syrup — a natural sweetener straight from the sap of trees.
  • Cashews. These nuts are rich in heart-healthy fats, plant-based protein, and fiber. These nuts are also a good source of magnesium, manganese, and copper which are all nutrients that support immunity, bone health, and are important for energy production.
  • Protein. Thanks to cashews and eggs, this dessert is packed with protein.
  • Anti-inflammatory spices. Cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice both boast powerful medicinal advantages; read more on the benefits here.
  • Coconut oil. About half of the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are called Lauric acid which contributes to the anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties of the oil. (Source.)

Process shots-- images of the cashews, oats, maple syrup, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla being added to a blender

Healthy Pumpkin Cake Ingredients

Below are a few ingredient-specific notes:

  • Pumpkin pie spice is a delicious combination of warming spices (including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice). It can be found with the other spices in the grocery store, or you can make your own pumpkin pie spice!
  • Pure maple syrup is a natural sweetener (unlike corn syrup or pancake syrup) made from the sap of maple trees, which is boiled down to a thicker consistency. Maple syrup has no added ingredients and is all natural — the best way to sweeten this cake and add the perfect amount of moisture.
  • Cashews. We love dry-roasted and lightly salted cashews best — more flavor without any extra effort on your part. (Here’s what we use in this cake).
  • Coconut oil. I have found a good amount of variation in coconut oil brands; there is a stronger coconut flavor in some brands as opposed to others. I personally use LouAna® Coconut Oil and don’t find any recognizable or pronounced coconut flavor in this Healthy Pumpkin Cake recipe.
  • Canned pumpkin. More on this ingredient below!

QUICK TIP

The ingredients in this Healthy Pumpkin Cake are naturally gluten-free but make sure to check all your ingredient labels to be sure they weren’t processed in a facility with gluten.

Process shots of Healthy Pumpkin Cake-- images of the baking agents and spices being added to the blender and it all being blended then transferred to the prepared pan

Let’s Chat Pumpkin

For the best results in this Healthy Pumpkin Cake, we recommend using good-quality canned pumpkin. Canned, solid-pack pumpkin puree contains cooked pumpkin and nothing else.

Pumpkin pie filling, on the other hand, contains spices, water, sweetener, and other ingredients so that it’s ready to be made into a pie. 

I highly recommend Libby’s® canned pumpkin (not sponsored). Over years of baking and testing recipes, we’ve found this brand delivers the most consistent and best results as far as moisture content, color, and overall flavor.

Process shots-- images of the cake cooling then the frosting being added

Healthy Pumpkin Cake Recipe Tips

  • This recipe is quick and easy to make, but you do need a good, powerful blender (think Blendtec® or Vitamix®) to break down the cashews and oats into a smooth batter.
  • Stop the blender and scrape down the sides as needed to ensure all the ingredients are blending and incorporating well.
  • Use a light-colored 8×8-inch pan and line it with parchment paper for easy cake removal. It may sound silly but the light-colored pan reflects heat differently than a dark one.
  • How to know when this Healthy Pumpkin Cake is done baking. You’ll know this cake is done baking when it’s no longer glossy-looking on top, the edges are firm and lightly browned, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

Image of a slice of the Healthy Pumpkin Cake

Healthy Pumpkin Cake Frosting Options

The optional cream cheese frosting recipe included does have refined sugars and dairy. If you aren’t on a specific diet, the cream cheese frosting is such a delicious pairing. But, if you are, leave it off or try a more nutritious frosting.

Alternatively, leave off the frosting and dust the top with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar or a slather of good roasted cashew butter — yum! Even better — try this cashew “cream cheese” frosting with the leftover cashews from the cake.

If you prepare the frosting for this cake, we love topping the frosting with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice for added flavor and visual interest.

QUICK TIP

Instead of making this cake with cream cheese frosting, try our Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Cake instead! After blending the batter, let the batter cool (it heats up from the pressure of blending), and then gently mix in 1 cup chocolate chips of choice (milk, semi-sweet, or dark).

Image of a slice of Healthy Pumpkin Cake on a plate ready, to be enjoyed

Should Pumpkin Cake Be Refrigerated?

  • Frosted bars need to be tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge since there is dairy in the frosting. 
  • If you make the bars without frosting, we still recommend refrigerating bars (tightly wrapped) because of the moisture in the cake.
  • The fridge will turn this low-fat pumpkin cake stale quickly, so bars are best consumed soon after being made. (This cake is best eaten within 2-3 days.) 

STORAGE

Can I Freeze this Healthy Pumpkin Cake?

Unfrosted Healthy Pumpkin Cake freezes beautifully — in fact, I think they taste even better after being frozen and thawed as their flavor has a chance to intensify. That said, frosted bars don’t freeze as well because the dairy in the cream cheese frosting will change consistency as it is thawed.

To freeze*/thaw unfrosted bars:

  1. Cool cake completely before storing. Slice into bars.
  2. To freeze: Wrap individual cake bars in plastic wrap and then place all the wrapped cake pieces in large freezer bags.
  3. To thaw: Set out at room temperature or thaw frozen cake in the microwave.

Use Leftover Canned Pumpkin In One Of These Recipes:

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Healthy Pumpkin Cake

5 from 2 votes
This Healthy Pumpkin Cake delivers an explosion of flavor, offers the perfect moist texture, and couldn't be easier to make -- we throw everything into a blender and give it a whirl! Pour the batter into a pan, bake, and be prepared to enjoy this tasty seasonal treat.
Print Recipe

Healthy Pumpkin Cake

5 from 2 votes
This Healthy Pumpkin Cake delivers an explosion of flavor, offers the perfect moist texture, and couldn't be easier to make -- we throw everything into a blender and give it a whirl! Pour the batter into a pan, bake, and be prepared to enjoy this tasty seasonal treat.
Course Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, Healthy, Vegetarian
Keyword healthy pumpkin cake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 16 pieces
Calories 156kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $7.19

Equipment

  • High powered blender (Note 1)
  • 8x8-inch pan and parchment paper

Ingredients

Pumpkin Cake

  • 1 cup dry-roasted & lightly salted cashews (Note 2)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (Note 3)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup (Note 4)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin (Note 5)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons each: ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (Note 6)

Optional Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces reduced-fat (or regular) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (Note 7)
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Tiny pinch fine sea salt

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • BLEND TO CREATE BATTER: Add the cashews, oats, oil (measure when melted), maple syrup, eggs, and pumpkin to a large powerful blender (Blend-tec/Vitamix) and pulse until smooth-- 90-120 seconds. Add in the rest of the cake ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy, about 60-90 seconds. Stop and scrape down edges as needed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, using a spatula to scrape every bit into the pan.
  • BAKE: Smooth the top with the spatula and bake for 33-38 minutes or until cake is lightly browned at the edges and set in the middle (toothpick when inserted in the center should come out clean). 36 minutes is perfect in my oven!
  • OPTIONAL FROSTING: Meanwhile, place softened cream cheese in a large bowl with room temperature butter. Using a hand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the butter until smooth and creamy. Add in vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar (beating in between additions) until smooth and creamy and to your desired consistency.
  • DECORATE: Frost the completely cooled cake with as much frosting as you'd like (the batch of frosting makes a lot; you can certainly use it all if you'd like, but if you want a less-frosted cake, you will likely have about 1/4 up to 1/2 cup extra frosting -- save and add to your favorite pancakes or waffles!). If desired, top the frosting with a light sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice (optional).
  • SERVING: Use the overhang of parchment paper to remove the pumpkin cake to a cutting board. Then use a sharp chef’s knife to make decisive cuts. Run the knife under warm water, dry it on a kitchen towel, and repeat for each cut.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Blender: You'll need a good, powerful blender (think Blendtec® or Vitamix®) to break down the cashews without over-heating the machine.
Note 2: Cashews: We love dry-roasted and lightly salted cashews best — more flavor without any extra effort on your part. (Here's what we use in this cake.)
Note 3: Oats: Although it would make sense that any oats would work since they’re getting blended anyways, it’s important to use old-fashioned to ensure you get the right measurement. Both quick and steel-cut oats are smaller, denser, and more compact so measurements would be off and the cake would end up too dry.
Note 4: Pure maple syrup is a natural sweetener (unlike corn syrup or pancake syrup) made from the sap of a maple tree, which is boiled down to a thicker consistency. I don't recommend any substitutes. 
Note 5: Pumpkin: make sure to get pure canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling which has added sugars and spices). We recommend Libby's® canned pumpkin. Also note that this recipe only calls for 3/4 cup, not the entire can!
Note 6: Corn starch: This is an important ingredient since we aren't using flour and need some additional support and thickness.
Note 7: Pumpkin pie spice: This is a combination of warming spices that can be found with the other spices in the grocery store, or you can make your own pumpkin pie spice!
Nutrition information does not include the optional cream cheese frosting. With the frosting, one serving of this cake is 226 calories.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 156kcal | Carbohydrates: 21.3g | Protein: 2.5g | Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 11.6mg | Sodium: 8.9mg | Fiber: 1.1g | Sugar: 12.8g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

How many calories are in a pumpkin cake?

There are 156 calories in one serving of this cake without frosting. With the frosting, one serving of this cake is 226 calories.

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6 Comments

    1. Sorry Amanda, I’ve never tried either and honestly not super familiar with baking using flax eggs or egg replacer!

  1. 5 stars
    This cake is perfect! I wouldn’t change a thing, and you would never ever guess it was so wholesome. Thanks so much!

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